HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Isaiah Thomas has gone from a starter last season to a part of coach Keith Smart's backup point-guard platoon.

Kings notes: Who's the backup point guard, Thomas or Fredette?

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 11:20 am

A day after Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points off the bench against Oklahoma City – and three days after Jimmer Fredette scored an efficient nine points in 15 minutes in Milwaukee – Kings coach Keith Smart said he remains reluctant to designate either player his backup point guard.

"I keep wrestling with that, but every game dictates something different," Smart said after practice Saturday.

"It may come to a point where I say, 'I'll play this guy for five games and see what happens.' But then I may need this guy's energy, I may need this guy's shooting. They're not the same type of player."

Since inserting Aaron Brooks into the lineup Nov. 18, Smart has alternated between Thomas and Fredette as the first point guard off the bench.

Fredette is averaging 6.7 points in 11.4 minutes, and Thomas is averaging 9.3 points in 18.5 minutes.

Part of the reason, Smart said, is that both second-year players need to play to get better.

"You make one the backup, the other doesn't play at all, then all of a sudden it's time to play, you may not be ready," Smart said. "This way they know they've got to stay ready, because they know they may play tonight."

Thomas, for example, did not play Dec. 5 against Toronto, then played 29 minutes two nights later against Orlando. He sat out the first half Friday, entered late in the third quarter and scored 23 points in the fourth.

Asked Saturday if he'd prefer to have a clear idea of when he'll enter games, Thomas answered, "Wouldn't you? I would. But I mean, that's coach's decision, and I'm a team guy, so I just go with whatever he chooses. I mean, I'll always know I'm going to stay ready, no matter what."

Asked if he understands the reasoning behind the platoon, Thomas said, "I don't. I don't. But I mean, I can't control that. I can only control if I do get my name called to make an impact in the game."

Smart said his hope is that all three guards "can keep putting pressure on each other to get better." He said he likes Brooks as a starter with experience and the lineup Brooks helps create.

Entering Saturday, the Kings' lineup of Brooks, Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins had the ninth-best plus-minus ratio (+39) of any five-player combination in the NBA, according to nba.com/stats.

The Kings have had success at times with Thomas and Fredette on the floor together. Friday, the pair combined for 21 of the Kings' 23 points in a fourth-quarter stretch as they closed Oklahoma City's lead from 24 points to five. They also combined for 22 fourth-quarter points in the Kings' win over the Magic on Dec. 7.

In both games, Smart said he felt comfortable with a smaller backcourt because opponents were not posting up their guards.

"The game situation dictates that," Smart said. "The personnel will dictate that."

Thornton update – Smart said he wasn't sure if guard Marcus Thornton, who has missed the last two games while with his ill mother in Louisiana, will rejoin the team for today's game against Denver.

"He might be flying later on (Saturday), but we'll check and see what happens," Smart said.

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